Kodak ESP 3.2 £79

16th May 2012 | 13:31

Kodak ESP 3.2

New Wi-Fi all-in-one printer with smartphone-friendly features

TechRadar rating:

3.5 stars

Like:

Comparatively cheap ink; Touchscreen controls; Simple to use; Very good photo prints;

Dislike:

Single colour ink tank; Quite loud; No CD printing;

Introduction

With a suggested retail price of £79 in the UK and $99.99 in the US, the Kodak ESP 3.2 finds itself joining the entry-level multi-function printer fight.

Taking on the likes of the ridiculously cheap HP Photosmart 5510 and the Canon Pixma MG3120, the Kodak ESP 3.2 offers a competitive set of features at an affordable initial cost.

The new all-in-one Kodak printer offers wireless printing, copying and scanning - via Wi-Fi, from a computer, smartphone or tablet. The Kodak ESP 3.2 is compatible with Google Cloud Print-enabled apps and Kodak's Pic Flick and Document Print apps.

Kodak ESP 3.2 review

There's no Ethernet connection to enable it to be hooked up to a wired network - just a USB 2.0 port. Unlike the Pixma MG3120, the Kodak ESP 3.2 features a 2.4-inch colour LCD touchscreen. And this, combined with its SD/SDHC/MMC and USB flashdrive-compatible memory card slot, means that printing can be set up without using a computer.

When it comes to printing, the emphasis is firmly on the photo side of things rather than documents - and photos from mobile devices in particular. Kodak tell us that this is an area it's focused on with the development of the ESP 3.2, and the printer can output prints up to A4 size, at a resolution of 9,600dpi, from iOS, Android and BlackBerry devices.

In terms of inks, the Kodak ESP 3.2 is compatible with the Kodak 30 series of pigment-based ink cartridges. It's the familiar setup - one cartridge for black ink, plus another larger cartridge that contains cyan, yellow and magenta.

Kodak ESP 3.2 review

This being an all-in-one, the Kodak ESP 3.2 offers scanning and copying in addition to printing. Scans from the Kodak ESP 3.2 are made at 1200dpi, with multiple photos able to be scanned at once and separate files generated automatically. These files can be transferred to computer, memory card, email, Google Docs or network folders.

Build quality and handling

Build quality is in line with what you'd expect at this price point. Superficially, the Kodak ESP 3.2 is similar to the Kodak ESP C110/C310 - a blend of gloss and matt black plastic finished with a yellow trim - and its light weight makes it easily transportable.

It's certainly a good option if you don't have the necessary space in your home for a printer to become a permanent fixture.

The Kodak ESP 3.2 is simplicity itself to set up, too. Positioning the printer head, adding the two ink cartridges to the chassis and letting the printer run through its initial calibration and test print routine takes just five minutes.

Kodak ESP 3.2 review

The printer keeps you informed of proceedings through its excellent 2.4-inch touchscreen display. If you've struggled with setting up a regular desktop inkjet printer, let alone an all-in-one, then you're certain to find the steps the Kodak ESP 3.2 guides you through to be extremely clear and helpful.

It's the Kodak ESP 3.2's larger touchscreen that differentiates it from the Kodak ESP 1.2 all-in-one, released at the same time in the UK only for the slightly cheaper price of £69 (around $110).

The Kodak ESP 1.2's comparatively tiny 1.5-inch display only features a touch panel surround, and that makes things less intuitive. Otherwise, specifications, output quality and print times are shared across the two models.

Performance and print times

With colour management left to the Kodak ESP 3.2, print quality of everyday pictures proves surprisingly good. Colours are generally neutral and come close to those seen in the on-screen image.

Our test charts show decent levels of saturation in the solid colours, although these exhibit a faint trace of mottling at times. Some coarseness and a touch of banding is also evident in the colour transitions.

The two brightest values on the greyscale wedge blend into one, and this means that brighter areas of a print will be indistinguishable from a plain white print border.

Kodak ESP 3.2 review

Text printing showed clear, clean edges without much in the way of bleed, although selecting the Best Quality setting produces a finer result. This is also the case when it comes to colour photocopying, where blocks of colours become cleaner and slightly more faithful to the original.

The cost of Kodak's inks certainly makes this all-in-one an attractive prospect, with a standard black series 30 cartridge costing £7.99 in the UK and $12.99 in the US.

However, having just one colour ink tank means that wastage is inevitable with the Kodak ESP 3.2. Print photos that contain a predominance of one colour - such as cyan in holiday pictures that feature lots of blue skies and seas - and that colour will drain faster than the others.

Kodak ESP 3.2 review

This isn't a problem with printers that contain separate tanks for each colour - such as the Epson Stylus NX430 or Canon Pixma Pro-1 - where you can simply replace the one that's running low. But when a single colour runs out on the Kodak ESP 3.2, you have to replace the entire cartridge, even if the other tanks still have ink in them.

It might be cheap enough to buy a replacement cartridge, and the prices per print are very reasonable - standard Kodak 30-series ink is rated at 11.5p or 15 cents per A6 (roughly 4 x 6-inch) colour photo and 2.4p or 3.8 cents for mono text (although picking up Value Pack combinations brings these prices down considerably). But this two-tank approach still feels wasteful.

Kodak has already admitted to TechRadar that its printers won't be suitable for everyone - and if you think you won't use the photo printing feature frequently enough to make the efficiency savings then you're likely to be better off looking elsewhere.

Printing and scanning times

Talking of print times, Kodak quotes a 4 x 6 photo print speed of 38 seconds (but points out that actual results may vary). This is accurate, and we were able to regularly achieve a final print in under 40 seconds using Kodak Ultra Premium Photo Paper.

Kodak ESP 3.2 review

Switching to Kodak Gloss Photo Paper, we consistently clocked print times of 1min 56secs for A4 (similar to US letter size) prints.

Selecting the Advanced Dot Placement Mode option in Print Settings provides the maximum colour printing resolution, but this extended printing time to around 3mins 20secs for a bordered A4 (around letter size) print.

In terms of copy speed, Kodak rates the ESP 3.2 at 28 seconds, with up to 99 copies possible at a time. Scaling ranges from 20-500 per cent or fit-to-page.

Verdict

Perhaps a better choice purely for the home rather than the home office, the Kodak ESP 3.2 is a breeze to set up and use, and a sound choice for a family who want to be able to print wirelessly from their computer or iOS/BlackBerry/Android device.

We liked

The touchscreen controls and logical interface make it easy to print, copy and scan.

We disliked

The scanner is the weak point of this all-in-one's function - highlights are easily blown in photos.

Final verdict

Kodak has certainly delivered value and simplicity, and photo output is convincing when you use premium Kodak glossy photo paper. Running costs are good, and although the launch price of £79 in the UK or $99.99 in the US puts it slightly ahead of its rivals, it's not in a different ballpark.

Kodak
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